Arena - The Unquiet Sky

Arena The Unquiet Sky cover
The Unquiet Sky
Verglas Music
It’s really difficult to keep up with this band. The British prog rockers seem to have chosen a voluntary path of isolation; far from the plays of modern music industry, delving alone to the art of making pure, melancholic progressive music. To be honest their low profile is… so low that I only accidentally found out that they released a new album – even though I am a long fan of the group.
Anyhow, if this low profile gives them the fuel to produce such inspiring music, then it is a price worth paying. After 2011 and “The Seventh Degree of Separation” (which was an astonishing record), Arena return with a more… balanced and equal album than its predecessor. To my ears, this year’s album presents a more balanced approach in the tracks – whereas “The Seventh…” contained both small musical diamonds and small musical indifferent songs. Furthermore, the piano seems to have a more advanced role in many songs, without – of course – losing any of the Arena trademarks: dark melodies, twisted riffs, sudden and unexpected changes in styles, moods and climaxes.
Paul Manzi on the vocals seems as if he has been in the group for ages (even though this is only his second release with Arena), while the good-old holy trinity of the band (Clive Nolan, Mick Pointer and John Mitchell) perform as an accurate clockwork progressive machine. Arena’s mainly mid-tempo compositions manage to flow from epic to lyrical helping the band reach once more the high standards reached by their best releases to date: “The Visitor” and “Contagion”.
No, they won’t make the break into larger audiences – this is not the focus of their music. But they will keep inspiring all the prog fans – and actually fans of good music – while we are waiting for the next Marillion album!
“Tim Runs Out”, “The Unquiet Sky”, “Traveler Beware”, “Unexpected Dawn” and the “The Bishop of Lufford” are best among equal songs. However, I need to make extra reference to two songs: first, the melodic “How Did It Come to This”, which seems to be already a favourite among the core fan base of the group and has all the qualities to lead them to larger audiences. Second, the masterpiece “The Demon Strikes”, one of the very few times when stars align to provide the inspiration for such a composition. I wonder how many members of contemporary bands need to gather together to write such a song. Do yourselves a favour and listen to it as the best sample of how progressive music should sound nowadays.